Just over the Florida state line, Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia has been offering families a fun-filled day of thrill rides, water rides, and more since 1996. Although the park has changed owners, today the park boasts a robust offering of attractions across 166 acres. Despite only operating seasonally, the park offers a lot to see and do from March through December.
New Ownership Means New Rides
Financially, the park has had a troubled past. However, current ownership group Herschend Family Entertainment (the company that co-owns Dollywood) has been pumping new life into the brand. And although many of the park’s classic rides have been removed, the company has done a great job of replacing them with similar, better attractions.
Many of the nearly 60 rides offered by the park are reminiscent of crowd favorites from small fairs. You can find such classic-inspired rides such as spinning swings, teacups, tilt-a-whirl, flyer rides, kiddie coasters, and drops. But those looking for thrills are covered as well; of the extensive ride list, the park does offer a total eight roller coasters.
Cheetah lives up to its name; while not necessarily the tallest coaster out there it has steep drops and turns still make for an incredible journey! Swamp Thing, a bottomless seated coaster, certainly feels inspired by the Dragon Challenge of the Hogsmeade area of Universal Studios Orlando. Viking Voyage, on the other hand, is a cat-and-mouse coaster track all grown up with a five-story drop.
Despite only being opened about half of the calendar year, Wild Adventures packs in a full schedule. Your usual important holidays get the theme park special admission events. Such as free admission for military personnel on Memorial Day, and a special fireworks display for Fourth of July. The adjacent water park hosts Splash Island Nights, featuring extended park hours on certain Friday evenings during the summer.
The Halloween season features a great mix of child-friendly offerings during the day and the more terror-filled attractions at night. Kid-O-Ween, the aptly named celebratory events, are offered during the day; once the clock strikes 6 pm, however, it’s time to survive the Terror in the Wild. While Kid-O-Ween features more traditional fair-like offerings, Terror in the Wild features multiple scare zones. In addition, an impressive offering of scary experiences.
As the year comes to a close, the two main winter holidays take center stage. Days of Thanks features a changing list of activities. These activities are specifically for annual pass holders or certain community groups. It’s refreshing to see a theme park that, at the bare minimum, seems like it appreciates its supporters. And this is an event that would be great to see the larger theme parks adopt.
Finally, as any good theme park would, Christmas comes to Wild Adventure in December. The on-the-nose Wild Adventures Christmas events are featured during certain days of the month. These dates are December 9–10, the week of the 16th, and the 26th through the 31st.
In addition to season-specific events, the park also hosts numerous concerts, performances by another owned entertainment group the Harlem Globe Trotters, professional wrestling events, and more. Although a variety of acts can be seen throughout the year, the park does seem to have a penchant for classic rock, Christian music, and country acts; then again, this is Valdosta, so it’s not really a shocking lineup.
Clearly, the big trend right now for theme parks is ensuring that they have a water park offering, as we’ve seen with the recently opened Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando, as well as Disney working in more cross promotion for Frozen (because not enough people get Let It Go stuck in their head) at their Blizzard Beach water park.
Splash Island features an impressive mix of rides and offerings that are sure to delight any fan of water parks. Bonzai Pipelines put a spin on the classic drop slide by featuring three different choices to plummet down. Catchawave Bay is a sprawling 20,000 square foot wave pool that is also suitable for floating; a sort of rougher lazy river.
Ohana Bay is the most recent addition, and it acts as a park within a park. This newest area features seven slides of its own and was built with somewhere to park your family during the day. Because let’s face it; there are only so many stairs your kids can climb in the sun before they get cranky. In addition to more slides, this area is complete with lounge chairs, much-needed shaded areas, and a nice mix of child-friendly slides and speed slides.
Yes, annual passes are now standard practice for just about every theme park on the planet. And while I usually avoid buying them, it actually was difficult to argue with the prices of Wild Adventure’s passes. The Regular Season Pass includes park admission to both Wild Adventures and Splash Island, as well as general entry to concerts and their Bring-A-Friends Day (free admission for your buddy on certain days).
But wait, there’s more! The Gold Season Pass is a whopping $17 more expensive and features all of the same benefits of the standard pass. Also, these tickets also score you reserved seating choices for concerts, free mini golf and go-karting, free parking, and a 10% discount on shopping and dining.
Whereas I would struggle to justify buying a pass to other parks, this one truly does seem to make the most of what they offer. And considering tickets at the gate are almost $50, this really does add a lot of value if you plan on going multiple times.
Convenient, Affordable Fun
Considering most other theme park offerings in the immediate area are hours away, Wild Adventures is an excellent choice for many families in the south. Despite its troubled financial past, Wild Adventures has indeed learned from the best.
The influence of the larger names in theme park entertainment is prevalent, but they put enough of their own spirit into their offerings to be unique. And for those who need something more than rides, the park has a variety of exotic animals to see, learn about, and some of which are even pettable.
One part zoo, one part fairgrounds, and one part water park, Wild Adventures actually lives up to its name. Whether you’re a thrill seeker or are just trying to find a different experience for your next family getaway, this park is not to be missed. Especially if you don’t want to drive an additional three and a half hours to the nearest Six Flags.